As 2018 comes to a close, it’s time to start thinking about your goals for 2019. Maybe you’re even thinking of making a few New Year’s resolutions!
How many people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions? The number is lower than you might think—just 8% of people are successful. New Year’s resolutions are hard to stick to, especially when you’re a busy lawyer.
However, sticking to a few realistic resolutions can make a big difference in your practice and your personal life. Taking care to set resolutions you’ll actually keep will help you achieve success over the course of the year.
Here are 12 realistic New Year’s resolutions for lawyers (that’s one a month!) to help you stay on top of your game.
1. Get organized
Start your new year off with a clean slate by tying up loose ends and getting organized. Review your open matters (you can do this easily in Clio with a Matters Report) and ask yourself these questions:
- Should any open matters be closed? If so, close them!
- Are any cases stalled? Make a plan to address the issue, if possible, or consider referring the case to another lawyer.
- Do any matters have outstanding balances? If so, start sending out invoices. Also, review our guide to year-end law firm financials to double check that all of your firm’s finances are in order for the new year.
2. Take a client-centered approach to practicing law
In the digital age, law firms who focus on their clients first are best positioned to succeed. Clear communication, thoughtful processes, and consideration for the entire client journey makes for happier clients, more referrals, and more pleasant client interactions overall.
3. Start accepting credit cards
Still not sure about accepting credit card payments at your law firm? Consider this: According to the 2018 Legal Trends Report, 47% of legal consumers are more likely to hire a lawyer who accepts automated payments, and 40% of legal consumers would never hire a lawyer who didn’t take credit or debit cards.
In 2019, clients expect a seamless experience from everyone—including their law firm. Accepting credit cards can help your firm grow and improve your cash flow. To get you started, here’s some information on choosing a credit card processor for your law firm.
4. Network more
The 2017 Legal Trends Report found that when looking for a lawyer, 62% of consumers seek referrals from friends or family, and 31% get a referral from another lawyer. In other words, you need to go to more networking events, both to meet other lawyers and to meet new clients.
These events don’t have to be boring—legal technology conferences, social gatherings, and local industry meet-ups can be valuable (and fun!) to attend.
To connect with potential clients, consider networking events outside of your industry. Give talks at non-legal-specific events, get involved in your local community, and remember to mention to new connections that you’re a lawyer available for hire.
Also, keep in mind that networking isn’t limited to in-person events. Network online by joining professional groups on LinkedIn, and starting conversations around legal hashtags on Twitter. Clio Co-Counsel, Clio’s official Facebook community, is also a great way to connect with other lawyers online.
5. Bring more of your practice on the go
You already check your email on your phone, so why not try managing more of your practice while mobile? Turn bus rides and dentist office waiting times into pockets of productivity: There are plenty of apps for lawyers to help you run a mobile practice with ease.
6. Revamp your online reputation
In the information age, your online reputation is key. No matter how your clients hear about you, they’ll likely look you up before they sign on the dotted line, and a raft of two-star reviews could work against you.
How do you create a strong online reputation? It starts with a structured online marketing plan. Invest some time in creating and implementing a solid marketing strategy, and start the year off by reviewing your website, blog, LinkedIn profile, and other social media properties to ensure you’re keeping up with the latest best practices.
7. Become more data-driven
How well is your law firm really doing? To properly measure your success, you need to take a data-driven approach: Define key metrics and track them.
We’re not just talking about keeping tabs on the number of new clients you bring on each month either—look at where your clients are coming from, and track the return on investment of your marketing efforts.
More importantly, keep an eye on how efficiently your firm is operating. For example, look at how many billable hours you’re logging as a percentage of your total workday, or at your “utilization rate,” as we call it in the Legal Trends Report.
You can do this with Clio—create a matter for non-billable/administrative work, and use a timer to keep track of time spent on these tasks, just as you would any other billable matter. Then, compare time spent on this matter with time spent on all other matters combined, and—voila—there’s your utilization rate.
Compare your utilization rate to the average (which is just 30%, according to our 2018 Legal Trends Report) and look for ways to cut down on non-billable work, or consider alternatives to the billable hour, such as flat fees or contingency agreements.
8. Prepare for client intake before you meet your next client
If you have yet to set up an automated client intake system, 2019 is the year to do it.
A streamlined client intake system will save you time and eliminate the added potential for human error that comes with manual data entry. More importantly, a well-thought-out intake process means a better first impression and a better experience for your client—both critical aspects of taking an increasingly client-centered approach to lawyering.
9. Take better care of yourself
Lawyering is inherently stressful, but if there’s one thing that’s more important than your career, it’s your health.
If you’ve been working long hours and neglecting self-care, use the new year as a turning point. Eat well, get enough sleep, and take care of yourself. You may not be able to avoid stress as a lawyer, but you can definitely find ways to manage stress more effectively.
Jeena Cho, author of The Anxious Lawyer, has written plenty about the benefits of mindfulness. Try meditating, even for just a few minutes each day, to clear your mind and set yourself up for success at work.
10. Manage your time more wisely
Time is your most valuable resource, and we all only get 24 hours a day! In the new year, resolve to start managing your time better, so that you’re spending more time on billable work and less on administrative tasks.
We’ve got a few time management tips for lawyers to start you off, but don’t try to do it all yourself—a robust practice management solution like Clio can help minimize time spent on non-billable work.
11. Attend events to invest in your firm’s future
Beyond just networking, attending legal industry events can leave you with a wealth of ideas to improve your practice and make your business more profitable. For example, the Clio Cloud Conference, features talks on the latest industry trends, best practices, and more to keep your firm on the cutting edge.
Case in point: Clio customer Chris Trebatoski has used his learnings from the conference to double his firm’s revenue over the years. (Get your passes for the 2019 Clio Cloud Conference here)
If you’re not sure which event to go to this year, check out this list of tips for choosing the best legal technology conference to attend for your practice.
12. Try a new tool to help your practice succeed
If you’re already using practice management software and other tech tools to make day-to-day tasks at your law firm run more smoothly, you know how much of a difference tech can make. Tasks like billing, creating documents, and tracking time can be completed much more efficiently!
Why not experiment with a new tool to address specific needs and workflows in your practice in 2019? With over 120 apps and services in the Clio App Directory, there’s plenty to explore and choose from.
One caveat: Think carefully about your needs and optimize your processes before you optimize your tech! Read about how Patrick Palace and Jordan Couch successfully implement new technologies at Palace Law.
That’s it for now! We challenge you to try at least one of these New Year’s resolutions to better your firm. To a happy, healthy, and successful 2019!
This post was updated on December 27, 2018